An excellent article – “Women in Omani Arts: From Traditional Folk Tales to Contemporary Art” by Nada Al-Ajmi

I recently found this excellent article, “Women in Omani Arts: From Traditional Folk Tales to Contemporary Art” by Nada Al-Ajmi from the Department of English, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman
Abstract
It is unusual to find a country that has been modernized in which practices encapsulated in folk tales dating back some 6,000 years are regarded as contemporaneous and intrinsic to the national identity. It is also rare for an oral tradition to be transformed into the visual arts medium and in doing so both accurately convey past narratives while translating them into expressions of present-day issues. This study specifically investigates representations of women in Omani folk tales selected from a collection in print translated into English from Arabic. Analysis of theoretical work in the field of folklore appears alongside outcomes from qualitative interviews conducted with six contemporary artists whose art work features depictions of women. These interviews canvassed the artist’s knowledge of, and influences from, folk tales in their work. It also gauged their perceptions of women’s situation of in present-day Oman, in relation to values and beliefs expressed in folk tales. Analysis of folk stories found that women’s
actions were portrayed in a positive light and that they warned against practices that
placed restrictions on women, such as, choice of husband. Artists’ viewpoints in their
work and during discussions confirmed these findings and revealed particular concern
around continuation into the present of socio-cultural practices that would limit women
and place them in difficult situations. Further research into linkages between different art modalities in relation to folk tales would be instructive.

I am pleased to announce that my article “An Ethnographic Discussion of Fairy Tales and Folktales from Southern Oman” has been published in _Fabula_

I am pleased to announce that my article “An Ethnographic Discussion of Fairy Tales and Folktales from Southern Oman” has been published in Fabula.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/fabula-2019-0020

https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/fabula.2019.60.issue-3/fabula-2019-0020/fabula-2019-0020.xml

Abstract:

This article discusses a collection of fairy tales and folktales from southern Oman to explain how some of the physical and cultural markers described in the texts are still extant today. The tales, most of which were recorded in the 1970 s, were originally spoken in Gibali (also known as Jibbali or Shahri), a non-written, Modern South Arabian language and are published in Aaron Rubin’s The Jibbali Language of Oman: Grammar and Texts (2014). This paper does not place these texts within established codices; rather, the exegesis turns inward, examining how these stories, recorded at the beginning of modernization in the Dhofar region, reflect many traditional elements of Gibali cultures. Further, the article compares the texts to other Dhofari/Omani fairy tales and folktales from Al Thahab’s Stories of My Grandmother: Folk Tales from Dhofar (2012), Al Taie and Pickersgill’s Omani Folk Tales (2008), and Todino-Gonguet’s Halimah and the Snake and other Omani Folk Tales (2008). It does so to highlight how the Johnstone/Al Mahri/Rubin texts show Dhofari beliefs about oath-taking, djinn, and the importance of teaching morality in written, but not oral texts.

 

I am happy to announce that my article “مناقشة إثنوغرافية للحكايات الشعبية من جنوب عمان” [An Ethnographic Discussion of Folk Tales from Southern Oman] has been published in the journal Al Sha’ar (Alaan Publishers, Amman).

(photo by M. A. Al Awaid)

This paper examines the cultural markers within a set of folk tales recorded in southern Oman. In the 1970s Dr. Tom Johnstone documented the un-written, Modern South Arabian languages of Gibali (also known as Jibbali and Shehri) and Mehri in the Dhofar region of Oman. In 2014, Dr. Aaron Rubin’s published a book on Gibali grammar based on his own research, Johnstone’s notes and data from Gibali speakers living in America; the book includes 70 texts of taped speech transliterated into Gibali with an accompanying English translation which cover a variety of genres including folk tales, autobiography, grammar exercises, and fairy tales.

The paper explains how the folk tales texts are representative of southern Omani culture by analyzing the various textual elements such as characters, setting, plot events and theme, as well as physical markers such as landscape and animals. These texts are among the very few documents written in Gibali and help illustrate ways in which the Dhofari culture has, and has not changed, since the rapid modernization after the 1970s. I will also compare the elements from the Johnston/ Ali Al Mahri/ Rubin texts with folk tales from other texts Khadija bint Alawi al-Thahab’s Stories of My Grandmother: Folk Tales from Dhofar, Hatim Al Taie and Joan Pickersgill’s Omani Folk Tales, and Grace Todino-Gonguet’s Halimah and the Snake, and other Omani Folk Tales.

 

 

My article “An Ethnographic Discussion of Fairy Tales and Folktales from Southern Oman” will be published in Fabula

I am pleased to announce that my article “An Ethnographic Discussion of Fairy Tales and Folktales from Southern Oman” will be published in Fabula [https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/fabl]

This article discusses a collection of fairy and folktales from southern Oman to explain how some of the physical and cultural markers described in the texts which are still extant today. The tales, most of which were recorded in the 1970s, were originally spoken in Gibali (also known as Jibbali or Shahri, a non-written, Modern South Arabian language) and are published in Rubin’s The Jibbali Language of Oman: Grammar and Texts (2014). This paper does not place these texts within established codices; rather, the exegesis turns inward, examining how these stories, recorded at the beginning of modernization in the Dhofar region, reflect many traditional elements of Gibali cultures. Further, the article compares the texts to other Dhofari/ Omani fairy and folktales from Al Thahab’s Stories of My Grandmother: Folk Tales from Dhofar (2012), Al Taie and Pickersgill’s Omani Folk Tales (2008), and Todino-Gonguet’s Halimah and the Snake and other Omani Folk Tales (2008) to highlight how the Johnstone/ Al Mahri/ Rubin texts show Dhofari beliefs about oath-taking and the importance of teaching morality in written, but not oral, texts.

 

 

Bibliographies: Research on Dhofar, Food & Anthropology, and Teaching Literature

(photo by M. A. Al Awaid)

Bibliography of Works Consulted for Research on Dhofar, Oman

Annotated Bibliography of Texts Pertaining to the Dhofar Region of Oman

Selected References for Research on Foodways and Society in Dhofar, Oman  – primarily texts relating to food/ cooking/ cuisine and anthropology

Selected Bibliography: Primary and Secondary Texts for Literature Teachers on the Arabian Peninsula

 

Excerpts from “Issues of Autonomy in Southern Oman”

(photo by M.A. Al Awaid)

Abstract from “Issues of Autonomy in Southern Oman” by Dr. Marielle Risse

Gibali (also known as Jibbali, Śḥeret, Shari and Eḥkili) is a non-written, Modern South Arabian language spoken by several groups of tribes in the Dhofar region of Southern Oman. While teaching in Salalah for more than ten years, I have been working with several Gibali-speaking men researching the culture and life-ways of one particular group of tribes, the Qara. Gibalis, both in interviews and from my long-term observations, see their culture as giving both men and women opportunities to craft their own lives and, specifically, to gain a positive reputation for wisdom.

This paper will explore how the Gibalis create and maintain an atmosphere in which both men and women are seen as having access to positive virtues and some control over their own lives. In addition to my observations and interviews, I will include examples from the fields of political science and anthropology, as well as stories from the first set of written texts in the Gibali language.

“I Came to You for Good”: An Ethnographic Discussion of Folk Tales from Southern Oman. RAI, London, October 26, 2017

baby baby

(photo by M. A. Al Awaid)

Risse, Marielle. “‘I Came to You for Good’: An Ethnographic Discussion of Folk Tales from Southern Oman.” Third Joint Seminar of The Folklore Society and the Royal Anthropological Institute;  Royal Anthropological Institute, London. October 26, 2017.

http://folklore-society.com/events/folklore-and-anthropology-in-conversation-1

In the 1970s Dr. Tom Johnstone documented the un-written, Modern South Arabian languages of Gibali and Mehri in the Dhofar region of southern Oman by recording autobiographical stories and folk tales. Several of these spoken folk tales were translated into written English and published by Aaron Rubin in 2014. My presentation will explain how these folk tales, recorded just at the beginning of modernization, reflect worldviews that I see daily in my anthropological work in Dhofar.

I will demonstrate how these texts are representative of southern Omani culture by analyzing the various textual elements of the folk tales such as use of setting, characters, plot events and theme. These texts are among the very few documents transliterated in Gibali and help illustrate ways in which the Dhofari culture has, and has not changed, since the rapid modernization after the 1970s. I am specifically interested in how the folk tales reflect still current understandings of the nature of the relationship between married couples and the existence of djinn.

The Beauty of Beau Geste

My first semester in Oman I didn’t read anything except texts for classes. I simply couldn’t get ahead of class preparations as there was so much to learn, process, translate and understand. When I lived in Boston I always had a book to read on the T (metro) so I started to carry Gulliver’s Travels with me when I left the house in Salalah. I finished it piece-meal: working through it while waiting at the phone or electric company, standing in line to pay a bill or at the grocery store or waiting for meetings to start.

Gradually, as I settled, I started back in on fiction only to find, somewhat to my horror, that there was a reverse correlation to what I was teaching. In Boston, I belonged to two book clubs at the Boston Athenaeum: Arcadia, Pale Fire, Invisible Cities, Passage to India, Trollope, Lolita, Racine’s Phaedra, Flaubert’s Parrot, The Movie-goer, etc.

Two different long-distance friends and I set up mini-book clubs; we would read the same book then make a phone-call date to thrash it out: The Forsyth Saga, Anna Karenina, Tristram Shandy, Herodotus, Brothers Karamazov, Reservation Blues, Tuchman, Tolkien, Wharton, various Greek and Latin dramas. On my own, I read all of Proust, most of Stendhal, Flaubert’s letters, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and the first part of Autonomy of Melancholy. There were a few mysteries mixed in (Ian Rankin, Charles Todd, Barry Maitland and Julia Spencer-Fleming) and some Robertson Davies, but I reading mainly hard-core.

Then came Oman. The first non-class text I managed was Island of Sheep by John Buchan. Talk about a come-down. And worse: I really liked it. Restful. I remembered what I had tried to long suppress, that when I was teaching in the Emirates, I read all sorts of that type of late 1800s, early 1900s adventure books. Wordsworth Classics publishes “classics” for $3 each and living in Sharjah I read my way through most of Kipling, Beau Geste, H. Ridder Haggard, Treasure Island, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Last of the Mohicans, Prisoner of Zenda, Hound of the Baskervilles. Feeling guilty, I read the Post-Colonial Reader and Candide to make up for novelistic slumming. I tried to up-grade to C.S. Forester and The Three Musketeers but my heart was with Ivanhoe, The Scarlet Pimpernel and Lady Audley’s Secret.

In Boston, when I wasn’t teaching, I needed the intellectual challenge of good writing, but in Oman, teaching the “greats,” I drifted back into literary la-la land. After Island of Sheep, it was on to Greenmantle, The Children of New Forest, and Louisa May Alcott . I dabbled with a few travel writers (J. Maarten Troost, Chris Stewart, George Courtauld, and the always marvelous Mark Salzman) but my heart went back to the fluff: Beverly Nichols! The Green Archer! The Black Arrow! Swallows and Amazons! The Coral Island!

I have read almost every canonical book in English literature (Middlemarch is still out there), representative works from all stages of American, French and German literature, a sprinkling of translated works written in Spanish, Scandinavian langauges, and Russian. I am working my way through classical and modern literature written by Arab writers. Every semester I read several hundred pages of English and Arabic poetry and short stories looking for texts to teach, but after a nice dose of Persuasion, I sneak off with Gerald Durrell.

One summer, in the time before Kindles, I ran out of books a few weeks before the end of the semester. I couldn’t get out of town to the capital to restock and found nothing at the small English language bookstore in town but Clive Cussler. So I jumped, making it through three Cusslers and then several Douglas Preston/ Lincoln Child books.

Most modern literature leaves me cold. Everyone is suppressed and unable to be themselves. How damaging it all is. And everyone has a miserable childhood. Sigh. Of course you have a miserable childhood. That is the point. Either your childhood is miserable, or you think it is wonderful and realize later it was horrible, or it truly was wonderful but you later become miserable because nothing is as nice as your childhood. All three choices result in desolation; let’s not dwell on that.

And all these serious novels about people who lost themselves. Well really, how does one do that? You are there – there you are. How can you get lost? Modern novels always seem to be set in living rooms, airports, cafes, bars and uninteresting offices, grey carpeting, anguish, but no one is actually doing anything. Give me a sword-fight, tundra, cannons, water-falls, honor, wolf packs, revenge, frantic horse rides across the moors, palm trees, a leaky boat, pirates, tigers, someone mysterious and threatening in the hedgerows, snipers, tea thermoses, terror, floods, breaking the square, hip flasks. Let’s get to the 2-seater running out of fuel over the desert, let’s get to the polar bear attack.